Apollo Agriculture, a Kenyan agritech company that helps farmers access quality agricultural inputs, finance and markets, plans to double the number of farmers by the end of 2022 and introduce other products that will generate more money per hectare of land. This comes after SoftBank raised $40 million in Series B funding in a round led by Vision Fund 2.
Apollo uses satellite imagery of fields and AI to assess the creditworthiness of farmers. The company plans to use the new funding to improve its technology and provide farmers with more products and services. The startup, launched in 2016, works with a network of agents to attract farmers and retailers to its platform.
Eli Pollak, co-founder and CEO of Apollo Agriculture, told gaming-updates about her priority areas: “We continue to invest in rapid growth; Serving more farmers, helping them increase their acreage and really speeding up business. And so it continues to expand both in Kenya and into new markets.”
Agritech is looking for growth opportunities in East and West Africa.
“We also continue to develop products that deliver higher value per hectare. It could be new cultures that will enable customers to make more money,” says Pollak, co-founder of Apollo along with Benjamin Nzenga and Earl St.
Apollo began by partnering with corn farmers but has focused on helping them diversify into other high-yielding crops.
“We started from Mecca. Corn is not perfect, but it has a huge advantage that almost every farmer in East Africa grows. This gives us a place where we can win the trust of farmers and immediately offer a price,” he said.
“We believe the path from subsistence farming to farming as a business is to work with that farmer and use our machine learning model to identify those farmers who have the best prospects for high-yielding crops.”
Apollo reached 100,000 farmers by the end of last year and planned to double their reach by the end of this year. It has a nationwide network of “over a thousand” retailers and 5,000 agents.
Agents bring farmers to Apollo, while retailers use the startup’s “checkout app” to manage points of sale, inventory, bulk orders and access to trade credit.
Apollo has grown 10x since its $6 million Series A closure in 2020, Pollack said, helped by product funding. Over the years, Agritech has secured over $16 million in debt financing for further loans.
Apollo’s products include insurance offered by its partners, including Insurtech in Pula, Kenya.
Pollack said: “We designed our business to strengthen agricultural systems, and when you think about climate change, we link insurance to every loan we sell to protect the borrower.”
The latest funding round included Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Yara Growth Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, CDC and existing investors including Anthemis Exponential Ventures, Flourish Ventures, Leaps by Bayer, SBI, Breuer Capital and Two Ventures Food.
Alexia Yianopoulos, director of investment at SoftBank Investments, Advisors, said: “With ongoing macroeconomic and geopolitical instability, world food is one of the major challenges facing society. The Apollo platform provides a one-stop solution for a little “help”. Farmers in developing areas are increasing crop and livestock yields. Incorporating valuable financial services such as credit, insurance and mentoring into the supply chain is critical to supporting a more efficient and sustainable global food chain.”
Pollack and Earl previously worked at The Climate Corporation in the US, helping farmers use data to make production decisions. Seeking to make a bigger impact, he launched the Apollo to help farmers outside the US more than double their production and switched from subsistence farming to commercial farming.
The agricultural sector provides 26% of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP), employs over 40% of the country’s population, and accounts for 65% of its export earnings. It is this importance to the country’s economic livelihood that makes this sector the main focus of innovators. Other agtech companies that are already making waves in the market include Twiga, a B2B supply chain company, and iProcure, an agricultural input procurement platform and last-mile delivery service.